Scene 21 – October 22nd
Interior Warehouse, Evening
“Penelope Page” (Blue)
I met with my other selves in the backup rendezvous. While my mission had gone off without a hitch, the periodic updates we had passed on by bird mail told me that both of them had run into superheroes. Patron of Ambrosia Co. or not, Canaveral was altogether too good of a person to trust, and too good of a tracker to use the primary safehouse that the company kept in New Venice.
As a result, instead of a nice office space we had to meet in a warehouse. It wasn’t that much of a hardship, I supposed, but still. I – or at least, this iteration of me, one step away from the original Penelope Page, – preferred a little more comfort, if I was given the choice. Ah well.
The third gen iterations arrived shortly after me – one of them slipping in wearing the face of a dockworker, then shrinking down into a butch-looking woman in a waistcoat and a purple undercut. The other came in through the roof after landing there as a flock of birds, showing herself in a green-colored women’s school uniform of some sort. Very few iterations of me had any strong preferences towards any particular look, but we tended to settle on a single aesthetic simply to help distinguish ourselves from each other.
I nodded to them as they arrived. “Student. Butch.” Names, on the other hand, had been trickier, at least for the first year. After that, we all agreed that we simply had to go by whatever name was suggested by our chosen aesthetic, or things got confusing.
They both nodded to me. “How did things go for you, Blue?” asked Butch.
I shrugged. “No trouble on my end – none of the guards had any suspicions, and our imprisoned friend had been rescued by us before. I chose an IT girl for the infiltration and ensured that the cell’s cameras suffered a malfunction when I slipped down there. Thornhill’s best purchaser is free once more, albeit in the IT girl’s body, and a body with signs of a heart attack has been left behind. I thought it would be a fun challenge, after I let them spot me, but the fools apparently didn’t expect me to be sneaking into their base – I can’t imagine why not.”
It was a simple trick, and one that I had done several times before – I could perfectly replicate anyone if I absorbed them, but I didn’t have to limit myself to pure recreation. I was fully capable of mixing and matching as I chose. By leaving behind a copy of the IT girl’s body with Thornhill’s agent’s brain, the agent would be able to cover for the unfortunate that I had used to slip through the MLED’s security. In a week or two she would submit a letter of resignation, and no one would connect it to the sudden death of who they thought the agent had been – the body that had been left behind, of course, was another copy of me, one who sometime today would have arranged herself to appear as though she was having massive cardiac arrest, then replace her own brain with that of the IT girl, who would die before even really waking.
Student rolled her eyes. “Yes, we’ve all done the trick before. We know how it works.”
I glared at her. “You’re one to talk, Student, when you messed up a mission as simple as ‘pass on Laura’s last messages to her family.’”
“It’s not my fault that there were superheroes knocking at the family door! I decided not to potentially screw things up, and took on a different mission!” she defended herself.
I turned to Butch. “And did you finish the mission, after you two decided to swap?”
She fidgeted a little. “Well… after getting the message I had a hunch that the younger of the two heroes, the one who was wearing Laura’s invention, might be her child. I was going to deliver her message to them, but… I decided that it was better to be safe, since I didn’t actually know their identity.”
I frowned at her. “Come on, Butch. Who else was it going to be? They had a key to the house for gods’ sake!”
“Boyfriend? Girlfriend? I don’t know! I realize that it was probably the kid, yes, but you know we’re supposed to respect identity stuff! The heroic patrons get pissy if Ambrosia is sketchy where anyone can see!”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s more of a guideline. Besides, no one knows that Legion is associated with Ambrosia.”
“Um…” Student scratched at the back of her head. “I kind of spent Canaveral’s second favor.”
“…on what.” I growled. “Please, enlighten me what was so important that you had to spend one of the very valuable favors that Ambrosia Co. is owed by such a respected figure.”
“Look, he brought Laura back when she was kidnapped!” she cried. “And Laura saved us, remember? We owe him!”
“He didn’t do it for us, Student,” Butch snarled. “He’s a hero, it’s just what he does. And besides, that was his first favor. We don’t owe him anything – we owe Laura.”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about your fuckup,” I snapped at Butch, then turned back to Student. “She is right, though. That’s not a good enough reason.”
Student crossed her arms defiantly. “I think we owe him.”
I rubbed my temples – I shouldn’t be able to get headaches, and yet I could feel one coming on. “Fine, I guess. it’s too late to do anything about now. You spent it on?”
“Maxwell Copperfield’s location. We’re on a time limit, I didn’t have time to look,” she said, glancing away from me.
“Fine. And did that mission go alright, at least?”
She nodded, looking back at me. “I just came from it. He’s amenable to lending Miles the book, once he has it – he said that he expects to be able to lay his hands on it in the next month or two.”
“Good.” I returned my attention to Butch. “Now then. We have to be out of the city by tonight, or else Aegis will be on our tail, and you remember how that went for us last time, right?” All three of us shuddered in unison. “How do you expect to fix this?”
“I’ll do the usual resurrection trick,” Butch suggested. “I can even use it to cover for the two of you leaving New Venice.”
“Who are you resurrecting, exactly?” Student asked. A lesser known aspect of our powers was that when we used a template to recreate something, we lost the template, or at least the part of it that had been used. Newly created iterations of us didn’t start with any templates at all, requiring a quick infusion of basic forms like birds that we used for communication. And while bird forms could be done with the imprecise copying that we used to create additional Legions, which didn’t lose the form, resurrecting a person required a perfect recreation of the brain at a minimum. As the oldest Legion here, I was the only one of the three of us to have any people in my memory – or I should be, at least. “You didn’t forget to mention eating one of the New Champions, did you?”
“I was thinking Ventus?” she said, and I thought I heard a sly undertone to her question. “If you just pass him to me…”
I thought for a moment, trying to remember if he was one of the people that Madam Thornhill or one of her vice presidents had noted not to be resurrected. He had been a friend of Canaveral’s early on, as I recalled, and the two of them had fought me together early on, before Canaveral had become the New Champions’ team leader. He had survived then, hadn’t he? So when did I… “Don’t you remember why we took him in the first place?” I asked Butch after a moment.
She nodded. “But it’s been years since then, and no one would believe him if he tried to reveal it at this point. And I bet that Canaveral can convince him to keep quiet. I know it’s always a pain,” she added, “but…”
“And if he can’t, then Ventus will be out of the request list for resurrection.” I considered her request. Ventus wouldn’t have been my first choice to resurrect – he had been taken for a reason, and on the occasions I remembered bringing his brain out to speak to him he had given no sign that he had changed. I found it hard to believe that Butch actually thought he was a good prospect. How had she drifted, to come up with the idea?
Perhaps it had little to do with Ventus. Thinking back a minute to when Student had confessed to wasting one of Canaveral’s favors, Butch had seemed even more angry than me – I was mad about the waste, but she seemed personally offended. Did she expect that dangling Ventus’s resurrection in front of his best friend would be some kind of punishment?
I couldn’t help but to be curious about how she expected it to work, so I responded simply by offering my hand. She took it, and we merged briefly, our nervous systems combining. There was a moment of disorientation as I felt through two bodies and saw through four eyes and heard through four ears, then we separated once more with a shudder. The animal messengers that we used had simple brains, only enough to hold the instructions and message we programmed them with. A direct exchange with another human brain, however, was a hell of a lot to handle – worse than recombining from a group of small animals. We had never even tried recombining full human bodies, suspecting that it would be essentially impossible.
Butch and I took a moment to recollect ourselves, then nodded to each other and to Student. “Alright, Student and I will slip out to the south,” I told her. “You make your distraction to the north. And be sure to do it tonight – I like having a whole continent between me and Aegis.”
Scene 22 – October 22nd
Exterior City, Late Evening
“Penelope Page” (Butch)
I had made my way across the city with little difficulty, choosing to travel in the form of a flock of seagulls. I could, of course, leave the city without anyone noticing, and the thought crossed my mind after they recombined into me a little ways south of the Buff Boys’ territory on the edge of New Venice. After all, the resurrection trick that I was going to pull would mean the end of my brief existence as an individual.
While I had 25 years of Penelope Page’s memories to draw on, I hadn’t been the one to make those memories – with a different brain, I diverged farther from the original Penny every moment I was alive, every breath I took. Blue was one of the longest surviving splits even at only two years old, and at this point no one would mistake her for being the same person as Penny if they spoke to both, although they would probably still guess some relation. How far might I diverge, as a third-generation incarnation of Legion, if I had the time?
But, like spawning fourth-generations, it had long ago been decided that third-generations risked drifting too far from the original if they lived too long. I wouldn’t have been allowed to live longer than three months anyway. I completely understood why, too – the first third-generation to live past four months had gone off the reservation and left, after all, and I had Blue’s memory of voting in favor of a time limit of third-generations like me. How could I blame the other mes when I knew exactly why they had voted that way, and would have made the same choice myself?
So it was without much bitterness that I took the form of an overweight man wearing an expensive-looking suit and some flashy jewelry. There was no way the BB wouldn’t notice me and demand some kind of toll for passing through their territory. I would choose to take offense and reveal myself as Legion. A brawl would break out, and if I held back enough, a hero or three was bound to show up to take me on. Then it was a simply matter of allowing myself to be captured without making it look like I was faking the battle, and I would be exactly where I wanted to be.
“Hey, tubby!” called a voice from behind me, and I couldn’t help a grin. “You’re in Buff Boy territory! Either pay up or go to the gym!” I heard some snickering at what the gang members who had surrounded me no doubt thought was a hilarious gag.
Right on time.